Thursday, 30 July 2020

#CBR12 Book 50: "Beach Read" by Emily Henry

Page count: 384 pages
Audio book length: 10 hrs 13 mins
Rating: 4 stars

#CBR12 Bingo: Pandemic (read what you want)

Official book description: 
Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They're polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they're living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer's block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She'll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he'll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really. 

I suspect quite a few people who picked up this book, based on the bright, colourful cover and the light-hearted title were in for quite a surprise if they hadn't read up on the book in advance. This book is not a light, funny, frothy summer read. It doesn't feature anyone sitting or lying on towels on golden sand (despite living in actual beach houses, Gus and January spend remarkably little time on the actual beach). It is nevertheless a good romance, where the characters spend a lot of time reconnecting (they used to go to college together) and becoming fast friends before they realise that they've fallen for one another.

It just seems like it's important to address that our heroine, romance author January Andrews, starts the book in a pretty dark place. When her beloved father unexpectedly died, she discovered that he'd been having an affair. Not only that, but her mother knew about it, did nothing, and helped hide the fact from January. In the months after his funeral, when she was overcome with grief, January's handsome doctor boyfriend dumped her. Now she's pretty much homeless, broke, and needs to write a new book in a few months, or her publisher may drop her. Unfortunately, her belief in true love, meet-cutes, and happily-ever-afters has been completely obliterated. Because she has nowhere else to stay, she's forced to go stay in the beach house in Michigan where her father used to meet up with his mistress. Living in the town where said mistress still resides, in fact. Living in her father's love nest isn't exactly inspiring her creative juices.

To make matters possibly worse, she discovers that the surly neighbour who plays loud music at late-night parties is none other than her old college critique partner, now bestselling author, Augustus Everett. January is used to her writing being dismissed and assumes acclaimed literary darling Augustus will think the same as most others. She's rather relieved when she discovers he suffers from writing block too. The neighbours make a bet - Augustus will try to write a romantic comedy with a happy ending, while January will write something dark and serious that will please literary critics. The first one to get their book published wins. The loser will enthusiastically promote the other's work. January will teach Gus about all the popular romance tropes, he will help her do serious research and allow her to sit in on his interviews with survivors of a death cult.

Changing pace and genre seems to invigorate both of them, and soon both January and Gus are writing more than they have in months. They develop a fast friendship and start talking to each other about a lot of things, but both of them take time to share the emotional scars of their pasts with one another, which is one of the reasons the romance hits a few snags before they find their happy ending. Who wins their little contest? You'll have to read the book to find out.

As far as I'm aware, this is Emily Henry's first adult book, she's previously written a number of young adult novels with some form of paranormal element. I'd only read A Million Junes before this, but have now really liked two books of hers and will absolutely be checking out more in the future. 

Judging a book by its cover: Both the title and the cover of this novel are highly deceptive and frankly actively misleading to the reader. The cover and title promise a fluffy rom-com with people lounging around on beaches, reading, and relaxing. It promises a low-stress, effortless, well, beach read. As this book is about grief, and frustration and overcoming emotional abuse and generally have two characters that at least initially start out some pretty dark places, this cover feels like false advertising. You are not going to get the book promised on the cover.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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